I've always loved school. Back-to-school was my favorite time of year when I was a kid and I always approached the first day of school with excitement. As I prepare (physically, with school supplies, and emotionally, with tissues handy) to send my first-born to kindergarten in less than three weeks (omg), I've obviously got school on the brain.
For all the families getting ready to go back to school or go for the first time, or maybe if you're homeschooling and need gear: Overstock has partnered with the fabulous PBS KIDS (which is on quite a bit at my house) to create the Overstock Kid Zone.
There are several categories within the shop that include products for school (supplies, desks, and watches to keep older kids on schedule), artistic expression (easels, paint supplies, and craft kits), learning through play (tablets, science activities, play kitchens, dress up clothes), and kids' rooms (beds, storage, and decor).
The Kid Zone page also links directly to PBS KIDS videos and activities families can do together. Best of all, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of products purchased from the Kid Zone goes to support PBS KIDS and its mission of educating children. I know as long as my daughter has access to Peg+Cat and Plum Landing for a long time to come, she'll be happy. And since some students, like my godchildren, have already started back to school: I wish learners of all ages a happy and enriching year!
images via overstock
Now that I've (gulp) registered my first-born for kindergarten, I keep thinking about various things that I've been meaning to do with my girls. One thing I've had in mind for a while is to write them letters about this period in their life, what they are like, what they like to do, and so on. I meant to start when Cupcake was born, but even though I've composed these in my head several times, I haven't gotten anything down on paper.
I think her going off to school and beginning this new phase in her life will be the perfect time to put down exactly how I feel about her and who she is at this point in time (and my youngest daughter, too). My idea, in addition to writing the letter about their baby-, toddler-, and preschool-hood, is to also write them letters for different situations like their first breakup or the first time they accomplish a major achievement as an adult. I'd like to think I'll live a long time and be there for them to share my own experiences in person, but the truth is we never really know what will happen, and I'd love to leave something for them to keep, as a part of me, and as something to encourage them when they need to be reminded that they're not alone.
Once written, I'll need a place to put the letters so they can read them when they're older. I love this chromatic set of assorted envelopes in one of my favorite color palettes. I can slip the letters in each envelope, label them and keep them safe in a box for the future. A future that will be here before we even know it.
image via woonwinkel
Last year, we ended up coloring eggs that were meant for a deviled egg hors d'oeuvre and I loved how it came out so much that I wanted to do it again this year. Plus, I like deviled eggs better than plain hard-boiled eggs, so this way, we can enjoy the fun of coloring the eggs and I'm more likely to eat them after.
Hard boil eggs and remove the shells.
Halve hard-boiled eggs lengthwise.
Remove yolks and mash them (if you have a ricer, it makes the filling smoother, but using any masher or fork will do).
For 6 eggs, use:
-1/4 cup mayonnaise
-1 teaspoon vinegar
-1 teaspoon mustard,
-and salt and pepper to taste
To fill the eggs, we put the mixture in a cookie press with an accent tip on it; it gives them a light and ruffled look, but you can also use a piping bag (or a plastic storage bag with a corner cut off).
We usually top them with paprika, but you can also garnish with parsley, chopped onions or chives, crumbled crispy bacon, or horseradish.
The coloring process is the same as eggs still in the shell: food coloring + water + time = colored eggs. The color won't take to the eggs as uniformly as they do on the shells, but as long as you're okay with that, you should be pretty happy with the results. I haven't tried to do ombre or anything more advanced than combining two or three colors on the same egg, because it takes a while for the color to saturate into the egg white. We're actually doing another batch of eggs next week when my sister comes to town, so I might try to experiment a little.
images my own
There is a way to decorate kids' spaces without being too juvenile or relying too heavily on characters that your children are likely to outgrow by the time you wash the sheets for the third time. Buying designs that can or will grow with your child is also economical because the pieces you select will have more longevity. (Though I do still have my twin-size Rainbow Brite fitted sheet, circa mid-80s. That's right, be jealous.)
And just because something is for a kid's room doesn't mean it has to be bought at a kids' store. I also believe the reverse is true. There are several products from Land of Nod that I would buy for myself, especially from their insanely good lighting department.
In my opinion, the best way to design kids' spaces is to include bright colors, graphic shapes and patterns, soft things to snuggle, and a sense of whimsy.
The Oh Joy! for Nod collection has all those elements: Bright sherbet-y colors, oversized designs like a sweet cherry pillow and pinwheels on a rug, and adorable sprinkles-patterned sheets (like Joy Cho's daughter, the too-cute Ruby, my older daughter is huge on ice cream and sprinkles). The line launched yesterday and is inspired by both Ruby's interests and Joy's aesthetic with an emphasis on playfulness. While the majority of the products are geared toward young children, there are many pieces that will grow with them, and some, like the lamp below, that will appeal to adults regardless of parental status. The partnership between Joy and Land of Nod has produced two bedding collections, four lamps, pillows and soft toys, a rug, and a selection of curated art prints.
Here are my 5 favorite pieces from the collection:
images via land of nod
While going through the Handmade section of the gift show, I found Philly area-based Michelle Ciarlo-Hayes, founder of MKC Photography. She offers a variety of products including digital collage prints, pillows, and table runners, but the product that most caught my eye were her growth charts.
There are five different styles available: boy sneakers, girl sneakers, boy alphabet, girl alphabet, and little poems, which includes whimsical gender-neutral images.
Each growth chart is printed on removable and reusable vinyl so if your child changes rooms or you move, you can take the chart with you. Whenever I see other people's growth charts marked in pencil, or lines in someone's door frame discreetly marked, I always feel guilty that we don't have a growth chart. As I wash, fold, and pack away a size of baby clothes now too small, I feel the passing of time and my heart feels a little heavy. I think that's why the chart with the little shoes in ascending sizes hits so close to home.
I think it's just one of those times you go through as a parent where it all seems to be going so fast (I know it always seems like that), and it catches you off guard. We're looking into early intervention for Sunshine because she's 15 months and still not standing, cruising, or walking, though she's made a lot of progress in the last two weeks. At the same time, we're starting to register Cupcake for Kindergarten and it seems as though she's the one that just started walking.
These little reminders of the passage of time: the increasing sizes of shoes and shirts, the lines on a growth chart, transitioning from bottles to sippies and utensils, they're tangible markers of the (truly remarkable) changes and progress these little people are making every day, and how they're changing us too. And how we hope our best is good enough. I know being a parent isn't for everyone and I can understand that, but I sure am glad I am one.
top image via mkc photography, other images my own
Over the weekend I helped my four year old make her valentines for her preschool class. Last year she was the only one that brought in handmade valentines. I know how busy everyone is, and it's certainly just easier and quicker to sign names on the pre-made cards with popular characters on them, but I'm really glad that we're still making our own, at least for now.
My daughter is really into art projects and sticker crafts. Every time I go through the craft store, I grab a pack of foam stickers so she can do her creative work. I saw this pack of foam valentines and stickers at Target for $5 and brought them home for her.
I helped her a little, but I was really proud of how she carefully put her friends' names and the decorative stickers on each one. We had some pieces left over, which I obviously commandeered to make the valentine above.
Last year, I found card stock shaped like large cupcakes (always a cupcake theme with her) and we put each kid's name on it in white foam stickers. Then I wrote "You're sweet, happy Valentine's Day" and then she signed them. Craft stores always have paper or foam in fun shapes and most have adhesive backing so you don't even need to mess with glue if you don't want to.
I know there are a zillion cute ideas on blogs and Pinterest, and I really do like the one that looks like your child is busting a lollipop through from the second dimension into the third, but I think sometimes attaining (or thinking that you need to attain) that styled perfection can be more stressful than inspiring. If you're not into commercialized characters (I'm not) or spending a fortune and you want to spend a little extra time doing something hands-on with your kids, here are three ideas I literally came up with this morning while fully intending to post links to other people's great ideas.
Parents of young ones probably have most of this on hand. I did not shop or pre-plan for this (which may be obvious when you see them), every last bit came from something I already had in my house. I've mentioned before I'm not super-DIY girl, so these are pretty simple. But that's the thing - these are little kids, they're not trying to reinvent the wheel. They just want to have fun: To them, punny sayings are still novel and giggle-inducing. And making something themselves gives them a sense of pride and extra practice on the motor-skills. So give yourself a break, mom and dad, and if you want to shoot for something slightly more ambitious than store-bought, try these:
We happen to have foam shapes that we use when finger painting, but if you're handy with scissors and short on shapes, you could make a heart from an old kitchen sponge.
I used finger paint to coat the sponge, pressed down, et voila. Then I simply pasted (I actually used double stick tape, but you can glue, too) the original square I cut out onto another colored sheet of construction paper. Your child can write the 'to' and 'from' names on it and leave as is, or embellish as he or she likes.
More construction paper and some left over lollipops here. But even if you don't have Dum Dums hanging around, they're only 10 cents each in the bulk bin, so it's really cheap.
I cut out a 6 x 6 inch square of blue paper, a corner of a sheet of yellow paper to make the sun, and cut the cloud out of white paper. I glued the lollipops on with a bit of clear Elmer's to make it look like a balloon had escaped the bunch. I tied the yarn bow on after gluing, it was much easier than tying them first.
Insert pun about soaring hearts, and you're done!
A take on one of my favorite valentines.
This required the most work (i.e. tinkering with my printer). First I grabbed a toy train and a piece of green construction paper and wrote the message in black Sharpie. When you write your message, try to leave yourself at least a half inch border of blank space at the bottom. I propped up the train with a few small foam stickers so the wheels would look straight.
I took a picture of the train on the paper and printed it out on 4 x 6 inch photo paper (make sure you choose the borderless option). Then I glued the cotton balls on the photo paper to look like the steam from the engine. If you don't want the valentine to be 3D, you could put the cotton balls on the construction paper and then take the picture before printing, getting basically the same effect.
If you make any of these, let me know!
images are my own
Hope everyone is staying warm and lifting with their knees when they shovel, it's crazy out there lately. I drove down to New York last Friday to attend NYNOW, formerly NYIGF, the gift show at the Javits Center. In two and a half days—and 2700+ pictures later—I walked every single aisle of the show and saw some great products.
Mostly, I was really excited to be back in New York and to see a lot of the vendors I haven't seen in a while, since I missed the last three shows (not sure how that time flew so quickly). It was great to catch up with people and this was my first time experiencing the show since they changed the format and rebranded. I think it worked out well to have all the home companies under one roof, though as I walked the show, I realized there were several brands that I didn't see. I'm hoping they'll be there in August.
At any rate, I'm looking forward to sharing the things that I saw over the next weeks and months. In addition to new and interesting products, the booths themselves are often styled creatively. Here are just a few fun things I noticed:
There are all kinds of resolutions that can be made when the calendar flips to a new year. And while trying to improve ourselves is always worthy, I think the best goals are the ones that involve helping others and making our communities or world a better place to live in.
On Serena & Lily's website, I found the World Repair Kit. Inside the kit is a guidebook, stamps, stickers, and a passport to track progress. It is geared for children, but also for families to work together. The kit fosters engagement with the world around us and gives children a sense of agency and lets them know that they can help to make meaningful change. Throughout the guidebook, kids are encouraged to believe in themselves and to create goals to work toward.
The guidebook's illustrations are graphic and fun, and clearly illustrate big concepts in easy to understand ways. I love this kit because it empowers kids to take on serious issues in age-appropriate language and also offers them ways to help that play to their individual interests or talents: Issues discussed include homelessness, environmental conservation, protecting endangered species, hands-on ways to help those in need of clean water, shelter, food, education, and health care, and being a good citizen of the world. Holding a clothing drive or bake sale, creating friendship bracelets to sell, and hosting a world repair party are just some of the kid-friendly ideas suggested.
100% of the profits from the kit go to the Serena & Lily Foundation which funds youth initiatives worldwide.
Though the kit is recommended and most appropriate for kids ages 8 and up, it's never too early to teach children about the world and our place in it, and our responsibility for making it better. My non-personal goal this year is to do more volunteering because I really miss it, and I want to get my four-year-old daughter involved. My parents involved us in service projects at a young age and I have no doubt that it played a significant role in my lifelong interest in volunteering and affected my perspective on the world.
I distinctly remember going with my parents to load bags for a food bank to deliver, my earliest memory of volunteering. Since then I've helped package meals, cook meals, serve meals, organized a toy drive, helped shop for winter necessities for families, all for various organizations, but I know I can, and should, do so much more.
Do you volunteer? Do you involve your kids? I'd love to hear about the causes that matter to you!
images via serena & lily
My favorite part of giving gifts is that moment when the person opens the package, sees what the item is, and you can tell from their expression that you nailed it. I spend a lot of time carefully thinking about the right gifts for each person we give to, and even when I go a little over budget, it's usually worth it to achieve that perfect fit.
I still have a lot of shopping to do for my own family, but I put together a few things that I hope can help you as you shop for yours. Let me know what you like!
images via retailers listed
When I was younger, I was a voracious reader and tore through several books a week. Oh, to have the time for that again. It helps when you are also an insomniac starting from a young age (although, now that my 4 year old is following this pattern, I'm not sure how great it is). I also loved to make up stories about people and what they did and where they went. For better or worse, I have a vivid imagination.
So when I see the Brownstone Bookcase from The Land of Nod, all I can think is: amazing dollhouse. Yes, it looks great with some books and toys, but how fun would it be to style at least some of this piece as a dollhouse? Decorate some of the shelves, grab some dolls and stuffed friends, and you (or, you know, your child…) could entertain yourself for hours creating lives for the dolls and imagining their interactions. I would have a ton of fun making up stories with my daughters about the apartment dwellers within. At least one shelf would be an Auntie Mame-style penthouse with revolving decor.
On the practical side, having the option to close the doors and hide away the toys and books when they're less than neat is a nice plus. The modern design certainly goes with what we have in my house, and I like that it has the natural wood tone as well, so it wouldn't feel overly matchy-matchy with my daughter's white bed and dresser. It is pricier than a simple bookcase, but if your kids are interacting with it on a level beyond organization, it could be worth the additional cost. I love that it could serve more than one function, and of course, I'm partial to anything city-related, so I think it looks super cute.
Brownstone Bookcase, $599, landofnod.com
images via the land of nod
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